I don’t know about you, but I’m really excited at the prospect of a studio album from The Skull. The band recently announced they’d be recording this fall with Billy Anderson, and it just seems like they’re doing a lot of things the right way, playing fests like Days of the Doomed and Stoner Hands of Doom last year and the upcoming Fall into Darkness and Denver Doom Days to keep momentum going while continuing to get tighter and move forward. It’s cool to see and bodes well for the Trouble offshoot that features vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and (most recently) drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson as well as guitarists Michael Carpenter and Lothar Keller (both also of Sacred Dawn). Having seen them on stage a couple times, I’ve got my fingers crossed for what they can bring to a new record. They’re certainly in good hands.
Olson‘s first show with The Skull was this past weekend at Tequila Jaxx, and as it invariably must, video footage has surfaced of the performance. Taken from Trouble‘s 1985 outing, The Skull– which I guess for this band would be a self-titled? — “Wickedness of Man” finds the drummer fitting right in on parts he played 18 years ago. Earlier 2013 found Olson on keys alongside Victor Griffin in In~Graved, so I guess it goes to show you never quite know where you’ll wind up by the time a year is out.
Continued success. PR wire info follows the clip below:
The Skull, “Wickedness of Man” Live at Tequila Jaxx, 09.14.13
THE SKULL featuring original TROUBLE members vocalist Eric Wagner and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson alongside the band’s longtime bassist Ron Holzner with SACRED DAWN guitarists Michael Carpenter and Lothar Keller peformed at Tequila Jaxx this past Saturday, September 14 in Mentor-On-The-Lake, Ohio. Fan-filmed video footage can be seen [above]. This is the band’s first performance with Jeff “Oly” Olson.
As previously reported, Olson rejoined THE SKULL last month stating: “I know that I’ve mentioned that I wouldn’t perform TROUBLE’s music anymore unless it’s with the other original members, but I’ve had a change of heart. I want to rock again.”
THE SKULL’s debut CD will be produced by Billy Anderson (HIGH ON FIRE, SLEEP, NEUROSIS) this autumn in Portland, Oregon and will be released via as-yet-undetermined record label.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Blackfinger‘s self-titled debut has been a while in the making for sure. Former Trouble and current The Skull frontman Eric Wagner discussed the project’s first album in an interview late in 2011, saying then that it was being mixed, so unless that took more than year — which is possible, certainly — the record has probably sat for a bit while the circumstances of its release were sorted. To that end, the band has signed with The Church Within Records (see also Serpent Venom, Seamount, Beelzefuzz, etc.) out of Germany for the physical, CD/LP editions, and while an exact issue date has yet to be announced, for sure that’s progress. Between Blackfinger, Earthen Grave, The Skull and the actual new Trouble record, 2013-2014 is shaping up to be quite an era for Chicago’s most legendary doom export, its current and former members.
The PR wire had this to say:
Eric Wagner’s BLACKFINGER Sign Worldwide Deal; Reveal New Teaser Video
From Mercyful Mike Management & Production:
“We are extremely pleased to announce that BLACKFINGER, featuring former TROUBLE vocalist Eric Wagner, has signed a worldwide deal with Germany’s prestigious Church Within Records. The mastered album is being delivered to Church Within as we speak, and the CD and Vinyl versions are expected out by the end of the year. An exact release date will be announced soon. A full tour in the support of the album is being discussed, and will be reported on as things fall into place. Until then, be sure to check out the new BLACKFINGER promo video from Kathy Reeves Productions below.”
As reported earlier, Dark Star Records will be handling the digital release of the BLACKFINGER debut, which will be available on the official release date of the CD/LP.
The debut album, with its many peaks and valleys of heaviness and melancholy, along with Wagner’s signature vocals, will mark the singer’s first recorded output since Trouble’s 2007 release “Simple Mind Condition.”
The track listing of “Blackfinger” is as follows: I Am Jon Yellowood Why God On Tuesday Morning As Long As I’m With You Here Comes The Rain My Many Colored Days For One More Day All The Leaves Are Brown Til Death Do Us Part Keep Fallin’ Down
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I guess when Trouble comes knocking, you answer. Just a day after Trouble-offshoot The Skull had some lineup revelations of their own, Trouble have put word out that bassist Rob Hultz has entered the fold. Hultz is probably best known for playing in NJ doomers Solace, but he’s been based out of Chicago for some time and seems like a natural fit for the doom legends, whose new album, The Distortion Field(review here) is available now. If nothing else, it’s a hell of a line on Hultz‘s resumé.
Metal legends Trouble have announced their new bassist Rob Hultz to debut on Fall Tour
On the eve of the European release of their latest studio album The Distortion Field, Trouble have made a permanent addition to the band line-up with the hiring of bass player Rob Hultz.
Hultz is no stranger to the heavy metal, hard rock, and doom metal genres as his lengthy music resume boasts. While still in high school, he joined an East Coast hardcore band called Social Decay which served as his introduction to recording and touring. After a decade, he left with the guitar player to form the doom metal band Godspeed and was signed to Atlantic Records. Their debut album was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York and produced by Rachel Bolan of Skid Row. The band was represented by Gloria Butler Management and toured with iconic bands such as Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio, and Cathedral, to name just a few.
In 1996, Hultz helped form Solace, another notable doom metal band, which was signed to Meteor City Records, and played large arenas, clubs, and festivals such as Roadburn and Hellfest. Their last recording A.D. was released on Small Stone Records in 2010 and voted Best Metal Album of the Year on iTunes. Since then, Hultz has lent his talents on projects for Lethal Aggression and Disease Concept.
Commenting on the band’s decision, Trouble founder and guitarist Rick Wartell states, “Bruce Franklin and I played the bass parts on The Distortion Field, with the exception of one song. However as we began preparing to tour in support of the album, it became really important to choose the right person for the band. Rob is not only a great bass player but also a total pro with an impressive band history, and he’s got the Trouble-personality so he definitely fits in well. We look forward to him joining us on the road and being a band-mate for a long time to come.”
Hultz has already begun rehearsals and will debut live with the band for a series of European show dates scheduled for October 2013, the details of which are still pending and will be announced separately.
Trouble, “The Broken Has Spoken” from The Distortion Field (2013)
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Most recently found playing keys in In~Graved alongside Victor Griffin, former Trouble drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson has once again joined forces with Trouble offshoot The Skull, who’ve begun writing their debut album.
I think my favorite part about this news — other than the fact that it leads me to think there’s a potential time at which one might be able to view vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and Olson in The Skull playing 1984′s classic Trouble debut, Psalm 9 in its entirety to mark the 30th anniversary of its release — is that with three members of the band’s most revered lineup, The Skull is now more Trouble than Trouble. Trouble still has guitarists Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell, and they’ve issued a new album in this year’s The Distortion Field(review here), but it will be interesting to hear how The Skull‘s studio outing — to be recorded by Billy Anderson — stands up. One way or another, comparisons will be inevitable.
Also, beer! Life only gets more fascinating:
Jeff “Oly” Olson has joined forces again with THE SKULL, the band he formed with fellow original member of Chicago doom-metal legends TROUBLE vocalist Eric Wagner and the band’s longtime bassist Ron Holzner.
Olson states, “I know that I’ve mentioned that I wouldn’t perform TROUBLE‘s music anymore unless it’s with the other original members, but I’ve had a change of heart. I want to rock again. Although I have been having a great time playing keys for IN~GRAVED (led by former Pentagram guitarist Victor Griffin), I miss the drums and playing classic TROUBLE songs. I’m still going to jam with Victor, but there is room for THE SKULL too.”
“In just a few short months, 2014 will mark the 30th anniversary year for TROUBLE‘s debut record Psalm 9. TROUBLE guitarists Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin are having fun with their new record, and I had fun writing some intros for it, it’s just that Eric, Ron, and myself want to jam too and celebrate our 30th anniversary as well with a tour and a new record. We’ve worked just as hard as Bruce and Rick over the years and we feel that we’ve earned the privilege to celebrate with the fans as well. There is no animosity between the two bands and we intend to keep it that way.” We are currently writing a debut record set for release in 2014 and I’ve already submitted several songs to the guys. Excitement is in the air.”
“I’m also going to be brewing a beer for Allagash Brewing Company (based in Portland, Maine) set for release for the 2013 holidays. The beer will be Imperial Stout brewed with cranberries. More on that later… life is good!”
THE SKULL‘s debut release will be produced by Billy Anderson (HIGH ON FIRE, SLEEP, NEUROSIS) this autumn in Portland, Oregon and the yet-to-be-determined record label will be announced soon.
Confirmed shows are as follows: September 14 – Tequilla Jaxx – Cleveland, OH (with Earthen Grave) October 11 – Denver Doom Fest III – Denver, CO October 13 – Fall Into Darkness VII – Portland, OR October 19 – Loaded – Hollywood, CA
The 2014 PSALM 930th Anniversary Tour is currently being booked for both The U.S and Europe.
THE SKULL is: Eric Wagner – vocals Jeff Olson – drums Ron Holzner – bass Michael Capenter – guitar Lothar Keller- guitar
Posted in Reviews on July 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It has been a turbulent decade-plus for Chicago doomers Trouble. Their lineup came apart following the release of 1995′s Plastic Green Head, ending a run that established a loyal fanbase and cemented their legacy in doom and heavy rock as one of the most powerful two-guitar acts ever to wield a riff. A 2002 live reunion started rumors swirling about a new album, and in 2005, a series of show recordings and compilations began to surface, culling together old bootleg-style releases and demos in self-released, for-fans style. Label drama surrounded the release of 2007′s seventh album, Simple Mind Condition, which added to apparently already-present tensions in the band, and though the record was able to update the spirit of Trouble‘s earlier works without sounding either clownish or like it was trying to recapture something that wasn’t there anymore, the group languished, the album went unappreciated by most save for the most cultish of Trouble followers — they’re out there — and eventually, founding frontman Eric Wagner split (again; having left the first time in ’95 to front the psychedelic rock project Lid). Trouble replaced him with Kory Clarke of Warrior Soul and pressed on, but the magic that characterized the band at their best was long gone, guitarists Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin left as the only remaining founding members, drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson also having resigned in 2008 and a series of bassists having followed in the wake of Ron Holzner leaving in 2002, including Chuck Robinson and Shane Pasqualla — all the while a growing league of bands coming up as side-projects and ex-members reasserted themselves; see Retro Grave, Earthen Grave, This Tortured Soul, Blackfinger, Wet Animal. It’s telling that even as they release their eighth album and first studio outing in six years, The Distortion Field, through Austrian label FRW Records, Trouble lists no permanent bassist in its lineup, otherwise comprised of Wartell, Franklin, vocalist Kyle Thomas and drummer Mark Lira, as if to indicate that the drama that’s surrounded them for the last 18 years isn’t quite over yet. Even The Distortion Fielditself began its life in 2009, initially announced as The Dark Riff but subject to a fortunate title change at some point along the way, so one imagines that with a four-year holdup and the personnel shifts that have played out as well, Trouble are at very least living up to their name.
The most glaring issue with The Distortion Fieldand a hurdle I suspect many listeners simply won’t be able to overcome is the lack of Wagner‘s ultra-distinct vocals in these songs. To Thomas‘ credit, he is a proven, powerful, accomplished and technically precise metal singer, and on cuts like “Sucker,” “Hunters of Doom,” “The Broken Has Spoken” and “Paranoia Conspiracy,” the former Exhorder and Floodgate frontman (who also stepped in to lead the charge on Alabama Thunderpussy‘s metallized 2007 swansong, Open Fire) gives as vigilant a performance as one could ask. Lyrics here and there lack perspective, and how the ballad “Have I Told You” made it onto the album, I’ll never know, but if The Distortion Fieldsinks, it’s not because of Thomas‘ singing. At 57:50 and 13 tracks deep, Trouble‘s return hones directly in on the band’s trad metal lurch with the searing beginning leads giving way to chugging riffs of “When the Sky Comes Down.” Thomas is distinct on one of The Distortion Field‘s best choruses, and his time fronting the band live between 1997 and 2000 seems to have paid off in how naturally he fits himself in with Franklin and Wartell‘s tones. Sure enough, the album’s highlight material — most of it, anyhow — is up front, “Paranoia Conspiracy” adding some grit to the momentum and “The Broken Has Spoken” rounding out a strong opening trio with a gang-shout chorus and classic riff that acts as a prelude to the ’70s swagger later to come on “Glass of Lies.” Structures are traditional verse/chorus exclusively, and though by the end of the Dio Sabbath-ian “Sink or Swim,” the crux of what works best about The Distortion Fieldis set, there’s still a long, long way to go, “One Life” working to “bring it down” en route to “Have I Told You,” which is a dip in heaviness and with rock-dudes-can-feel-feelings-too-you-know lyrics that, while sweet, are so within the stereotypical power ballad sphere despite being underproduced that I’ve come just to skip it — something I almost never do — and move on to “Hunters of Doom,” a lyric no less generic but one of the album’s heaviest riffs. Immediate motoring chug, headbanging groove, bluesy solos and a raging finish, it’s a fitting centerpiece and manages to recover some of the momentum that “Have I Told You” so willingly relinquishes seemingly for the sake of formality.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Hey, doom works slow. It’s been more than four years since Chicago doom legends Trouble first started tossing around word of their first album in the post-Eric Wagner era. Back then, the record was called The Dark Riff and Trouble was fronted by former Warrior Soul vocalist Kory Clarke. Neither of those panned out, it seems, and founding guitarists Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell have (re)joined forces with singer Kyle Thomas, who previously worked with the band between 1997 and 2000, to release The Distortion Field through FRW Records on July 16, 2013.
Another full-length of Trouble riffs is nothing to complain about, and anyone who heard Alabama Thunderpussy‘s 2007 swan song, Open Fire, let alone Exhorder or Floodgate, knows Thomas is no slouch vocally. It’s hard to imagine Trouble without Wagner‘s Beatles-loving melodies up front (and I saw them with Clarke), but one hopes that in the years since Trouble‘s last record, Simple Mind Condition(originally out in 2007, then again I think in 2009 or 2010; it was complicated), Franklin and Wartell have used some of that time to meld their approach with that of their new lineup.
That’d be the ideal, anyway. We’ll find out soon enough. Here’s the info off the PR wire:
Chicago Metal Legends TROUBLE Return!
New Album The Distortion Field out via FRW Records
July 16th in North America | July 26th in Europe
Chicago metal legends TROUBLE return with their first album since ‘Simple Mind Condition’, released in 2007. The album entitled ‘The Distortion Field’ features 13 tracks and will be released by FRW Records in North America on July 16th 2013 and in Europe on July 26th, 2013.
‘The Distortion Field’ makes history in the TROUBLE camp through the band’s acquisition of a new lead vocalist, Kyle Thomas of Exhorder and Floodgate fame.
Commenting on new vocalist Thomas, TROUBLE founder and guitarist Rick Wartell says, “Kyle is one of the most impressive singers I’ve ever heard, and by far the most extraordinary singer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He’s got incredible range, incredible power, and an incredible knowledge of TROUBLE, as he’s been a fan for 20-something years. We’ve known him forever, and he innately understands what TROUBLE is about. He’s like the perfect guy to come in and do this job. It’s awesome.”
Veteran Music Producer Bill Metoyer is once again lending his expertise, having previously worked with the band on ‘The Skull’ and ‘Trouble’, both Metal Blade releases.
“Musically, I think this album is a true TROUBLE record.”, states Wartell. “In the early days, we used to just write what we felt and didn’t really care about what anyone said. We just wrote heavy riffs and played our music our way. But outside influences can kind of get a hold of you and start telling you what to do. When we were writing this album, the thinking was, we don’t care what anybody thinks. We’re going to write what we write. So this is basically a return to our roots, while combining some reflections of our band’s long history as well. With the two different music writers, Bruce and myself, we have a slight variation in our writing; Bruce has more of a ’70s groove to his writing, and I’m more the old school doomy metal thing. And when you put it together, you get TROUBLE.”
The band consists of Kyle Thomas – vocals, Rick Wartell – guitar, Bruce Franklin – guitars, and Mark “Marko” Lira – drums.
More details including song titles and album artwork are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks.
The band has planned a string of festival dates and will tour the album in both Europe and North America.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
And just like that, the lineup for Days of the Doomed III is complete. The fest, set for June 21-22 once more at The Blue Pig in Cudahy, Wisconsin, will boast performances from The Gates of Slumber, Victor Griffin‘s new In-Graved project, Kings Destroy, Orodruin, Dream Death, Chowder, Pale Divine and many more. The final act to join the lineup is Spillage, who will be making their live debut at DotD and whose lineup boasts Bruce Franklin of Trouble and Tony Spillman of Earthen Grave on guitar.
One more thing about this one to look forward to. Fest organizer Mercyful Mike Smith sent over the announcement:
Alright! It is truly an honor to announce that the final band for Days Of The Doomed Fest III will be none other than SPILLAGE- a brand new band consisting of Tony Spillman (Earthen Grave) – guitars, Bruce Franklin (Trouble) – guitars, Lothar Keller (The Skull/Sacred Dawn) – vocals, Willie Max (Shadoz Edge) – bass, Chris Martins (Band Of Brothers) – Drums, and Derrick Simpson on Keyboards.
Combing the metal elements of early Judas Priest and Scorpions, along with the bluesy feel of early Aerosmith and even Three Dog Night, SPILLAGE promise to deliver a unique sound experience like no other. With Bruce Franklin producing the record, SPILLAGE will be entering Chicago’s Farview Recording Studios this Spring, and are hoping for a late 2013 release of the debut album.
SPILLAGE will be making their debut performance as part of Days Of The Doomed Fest III, taking place in Milwaukee, WI on, June 21st and 22nd, 2013 and should not be missed!!! Further live dates will be revealed soon.
It is also a privilege for me to further announce that I will be working as SPILLAGE’s manager, so a big thank you to the band for allowing me this opportunity. This position has been the catalyst for me to move forward and form Mercyful Mike Productions and Management. I am currently working with several bands, and a full roster will be unveiled in the coming months.
So there you have it! Days Of The Doomed Fest III coming up fast, so if you don’t already have your tickets, I suggest you do so NOW!!! Head on over to www.daysofthedoomed.com for not only tickets, but travel and lodging options as well! And don’t forget! Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago is offering a shuttle bus to and from Days Of The Doomed Fest III for only $10.00!!! Call today and reserve your seat before they’re gone!!!
Posted in Features on September 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning in East Lyme, Connecticut. Why wouldn’t there be traffic on I-95? Seven hundred gajillion TARP funbucks later, I sat in a miles long line of cars weaving into and out of two exceedingly busy lanes. Much to the chagrin of the dude from Massachusetts next to me with a boat towed off the back of his pickup, I was barely paying attention to my drifting. Some of the sternest looks I’ve had in at least a week.
I managed to sneak in a quick to-go breakfast with The Patient Mrs., who is in the area, and then basically came right here. It’s about 10 to noon now, and I don’t know what time Akris is going to start — they’re setting up now — but when they do, it’ll be the launch of day three of Stoner Hands of Doom XII and the first of two massive all-day shows here at the El ‘n’ Gee in New London.
No doubt it’s going to be a long day, but hell, I’m here. I’ve got a deli sandwich in a cooler in the trunk of my car for later, and enough earplugs to last a month. My plan is basically to do the same as I did yesterday — but, you know, twice as much of it — with updates as the day goes on. Hopefully you enjoy keeping up as much as I do.
SHoD XII day three begins in just a bit. More to come.
UPDATE 12:46PM: Hope you like bass. Akris, the Virginian duo of bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg and drummer Sam Lohman, fluidly blend thrash, doom and noise, but are also able to dive quickly into runs of progressive technicality. Goldberg played through three heads — Sunn Concert Master and Slave and an Earth Super Bass Producer — and should go without saying was assaultingly, feel-it-in-your-chest loud, and Lohman had his own kit set up toward the front of the stage and off to the site, turned sideways. If I wasn’t awake yet, Akris were loud enough to get the job done, but as overwhelming as it was in terms of volume, the tone wasn’t muddy. The vocals cut through the low end (duh) and I’m not sure whether Lohman‘s drums were actually coming through the P.A. or not — they were mic’ed up, but he looked to be crashing down hard enough to be heard down the street, so who knows — but there was no trouble hearing him either, and even when Goldberg was at her loudest and most raging, everything came through distinct. Their demo was cool and hopefully it’s not too long before they follow it up with either a full-length or an EP. I’d be interested to hear how the dynamic between them came across over the course of a whole album. In the meantime, they were a shot of energy to start the day. Much needed and much appreciated.
UPDATE 1:44PM: From the wilderness of New Hampshire, double-guitar doomly foursome Eerie were quick to align themselves with the extreme. In look and attitude, I half expected the band to bust out throat-ripping screams and searing blasts. Didn’t happen, but they weren’t lacking for grimness besides. Instead, they doomed out a wall of riffs and varied abrasive and clean vocals, relying on steady undulating riffs, not unfamiliar, but hard to place directly somewhere between Cathedral and the semi-psych tonality of earliest Zoroaster. One of the guitarists broke a string early into the set, but if it really affected the sound, I wouldn’t know it. The two guitars played well off each other, and if the broken string did anything, it was force him into a higher register and into starker contrast with his fellow six-stringer. They have a record that I’ll hope to pick up and check out further, but it’s high time New Hampshire’s untamed forests spawned a unit as dark as Eerie — who might need to take a different name for how well it actually describes them. They seemed to have common cause with Statis, who are on next, but what the alliance might be, I don’t know. Either way, if Akris were the stoner hands, Eerie were the doom. Doom like “we only use our first initials” kind of doom.
UPDATE 2:27PM: Well, mystery solved. Stasis‘ drummer — listed on their Thee Facebooks as the mysterious “TBA” — was the same dude who played guitar and handled vocals in Eerie. See? I know it’s precisely that kind of investigative reporting that keeps you coming back to The Obelisk. Anyway, a trio from Portland, Maine — where Revelation and Ogre will doom this very evening — they were more on the sludge end than Eerie before them, but while guitarist/vocalist Michael Leonard Maiewski wasn’t including the same kinds of Euro-doom derived ambient parts, there was still a decent cut of drama in what they were doing. Bassist Mindy Kern had a Warlock or some such bass — many interestingly shaped instruments this weekend — and I don’t know to say for sure, but I think the sound guy working the board here at the El ‘n’ Gee is about ready to hang it up and go get a real estate license. It’s a universal fallback plan. So far, the three bands that have played have been so loud that by the time Stasis were halfway through, he’d left, perhaps in pursuit of lunch, I don’t know for sure. Would require some more of that investigating. I’ll get with the budget office and see if we can swing it. Stasis threw down a little mud, but the wash of low end was obviously intended. Wouldn’t be sludge if it wasn’t dirty.
Curse the Son
UPDATE 3:20PM: Beardbanging all the while, guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore led Hamden, CT, trio Curse the Son down a long trail of smoke to the riff-filled land. Playing through a righteous custom Dunwich amp — they make ‘em pretty — Vanacore’s riffly plod was second to none I’ve heard so far over the course of this year’s SHoD, and with the rhythm section of bassist Cheech and drummer Mike Petrucci stomping away, the band gave a strong herald for their upcoming Psych-achefull-length. Most of what they played seemed new, but I did recognize a tune or two from the prior Klonopain(review here) long-player, but really, old material or new, it’s all about the riffs, and Curse the Son has that down. I’d like to see Vanacore (who’s fighting a sinus infection but didn’t let on on stage) in a beard-off with Ben McGuire from Black Cowgirl, who play later, but in the meantime, Kin of Ettins is on next, having come all the way from Texas for the show. Curse the Son gave them a good lead-in and the crowd seems to be right on board. There’s been a lot to dig about today so far, though it’s hard to believe we’re only four bands into the day.
Kin of Ettins
UPDATE 4:22PM: In a dark venue such as this, it’s kind of easy to lose track of time. Whenever someone opens a door to outside and the sunlight comes in, I’m surprised. It’s still daylight out. It’s four in the friggin’ afternoon. Obviously no one told doomly Dallas four-piece Kin of Ettins that. They rocked like it was well after 11PM, proffering a doom that wouldn’t have been at all out of place on Hellhound Records in the mid-’90s and delivering it with just a hint of Texan swagger and inflection. Bechapeaued guitarist/vocalist Jotun (above) made mention in thanking Rob Levey for putting this together that he and bassist Donar were at the first SHoD in 2001 in Dallas. Must be quite a trip 11 years later to play it in New England, but they did well, and with one hand, guitarist Teiwaz ripped into impressive leads, overcoming some early technical difficulties and making a song like “Snake Den Time,” the title-track of a reportedly coming full-length, a standout. They saved the best for last, however, with the cut “Echoes in the Deep,” which also ended the set on their Doomed in Dallas live EP (review here). Awesome to have them represent the fertile Texas scene at Stoner Hands of Doom, and I’m glad I got to see it.
UPDATE 5:13PM: It’s only been about a month since I saw Black Cowgirl in Philly with The Company Band, so they were pretty fresh in my consciousness, as much as anything is at this point. In that time, however, their self-titled full-length (comprised of two prior EPs put together) has seen its CD release, so they haven’t exactly been sitting still. They were much as they were at the Underground Arts, maybe drummer Mark Hanna was a little less inclined to stand up behind his kit, but beyond that, the two guitars of Ben McGuire and Nate Rosenzweig still worked well together and bassist Chris Casse held down the grooves ably without being overly showy. Someone put themselves in the spot in the bar area where I had been setting up the laptop, so I moved outside, and it’s apparently a pretty fantastic day out. Not quite enough to make me regret spending the whole thing inside the dark club, but still. The thing that stands out most about Black Cowgirl‘s set is the dynamics within the band’s approach. The performances were spot on, but even more than that, their songwriting is strong and varied and their ability to convey that in a live setting like this makes them that much stronger a band.
UPDATE: 6:12PM: Wonderfully monikered Maryland classic doom trio Beelzefuzz just wrapped their set with a cover of Lucifer’s Friend‘s “Ride in the Sky.” A pretty bold choice, given that Trouble did the same tune and The Skull is playing later tonight, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t pull it off, guitarist/vocalist Dana using his pedal board as much for his vocals as for his guitar. And I do mean “vocals,” plural. At several points in the set, he was doing live double-tracking, clicking on to add another of his voice and then clicking off. He got jumbled up doing it, but it was impressive nonetheless, as was his voice in general. Though I dug their demo, I’d only ever seen Beelzefuzz for two songs at Days of the Doomed II back in June, so a full set was welcome. Following the energy of Black Cowgirl, they were a calmer stage presence, but tight performance-wise, and usually if it’s going to be one or the other, I’ll take that. Dana‘s guitar magically became a Hammond organ at several intervals and that was awesome as well. The Maryland contingent — a big part of SHoD for the last couple years — will have further representation from Admiral Browning in a few hours, but Beelzefuzz were a welcome dash of Krug’s Place in the meantime, making me a little wistful for Frederick. New London’s been alright in the meantime, though.
One Inch Giant
UPDATE 7:14PM: This was the last stop on Swedish rockers One Inch Giant‘s US tour. I saw the first one earlier this week in Brooklyn. Pretty awesome of an underground band, relatively unknown, to get over here and do a week of shows like that. Unlike in Brooklyn, I watched their whole set this time around, though it seems I’d seen more of it than I thought last time. They sent out a building jam to the ladies, hit the blastbeats again — frontman Filip Åstrand warning the crowd beforehand by saying, “I know you like them slow, but this one’s fast” — and gave a solid, energetic showing of their straightforward European-style heavy rock. I couldn’t help but wonder if Åstrand washed his Morbid Angel shirt between the two shows, but as I couldn’t smell him while was taking pictures, I figure probably there was laundry done at some point during the week. Their stuff was straight ahead catchy, and I think maybe some of the ideas got lost in translation between the Euro and US markets, but for both the fact that they’re here and for what they actually did while they were on stage, it was more than respectable.
UPDATE 8:11PM: As good as some of the doom I’ve seen over the last couple days has been, I don’t know if anything tops Rochester, New York’s Orodruin. They haven’t put out an album since 2003′s Epicurean Mass, but here as at Days of the Doomed, they came on and promptly blew the crowd away. John Gallo doesn’t so much play riffs as he conjures them, summoning them from his guitar in some kind of doomly ceremonial rite. The band played as a four-piece tonight, with second guitarist (and if I’m wrong on the name, please correct me) Nick Tydelski joining the melee alongside bassist/vocalist Mike Puleo and drummer Mike Waske. As a four-piece, they were no less potent than as a trio, and they had what I think was the biggest crowd of the fest so far. I didn’t count heads or anything, but all the people I’ve seen milling about the El ‘n’ Gee today finally seemed to all be in the same place at the same time. Good reason, as Orodruin are hands down one of the best traditional doom acts I’ve ever encountered live, breathing new life into what in most hands is a genre based in no small part on retread. Not knocking that, just saying that these guys have something special. Their In Doomdemo/EP is here and on sale. I bought one in Wisconsin, but I’m almost tempted to pick up another, just to have it. Fucking a.
UPDATE: 9:10PM: Anything strike you as a little strange about the picture above of Ron “Fez” McGinnis of Maryland progressive noisemakers Admiral Browning. He’s singing! When their set first started, I said to myself, “Now why the hell would they leave a microphone on stage?” thinking maybe it was just so guitarist Matt LeGrow could say thanks or something, but then Fez had one too, and sure enough, vocals. Not just vocals though, harmonies too. Either these dudes just discovered they could do that stuff or they’ve been holding out. I’d always kind of thought of Admiral Browning‘s tech-minded approach as being too complicated as to allow for structuring into verses, but it worked and it worked well. They still had plenty of instrumental material on offer, but they’ve put themselves into a different echelon entirely by adding singing, all the more so for actually being able to pull it off. And of course, as LeGrow and McGinnis were belting out the songs, drummer Tim Otis was running a marathon across his kit behind them. Legitimately, I’d be surprised if he covered any less than 26.2 miles. They paid homage to Buddy Rich with “Traps” and, after a story of how they ran into Geraldo Rivera in Coney Island earlier today, shouted out “La Araña Lobo” in his mustachioed honor. My plan had been to run out to the car and grab my long-awaited turkey sandwich from the cooler in my trunk, but Admiral Browning kept me right in here. That might not sound like high praise, but there isn’t much that beats “turkey sandwich” in my book. Kudos, gentlemen.
UPDATE 10:10PM: Chicago’s Earthen Grave went sans violin for their set. I seem to recall Rachel Barton Pine, who usually handles that instrument, being either pregnant or recently a mother, and either way, I’d expect that to account for her absence from SHoD. It’s a valid enough excuse. The show went on, as I’m told the show must, and Earthen Grave delivered a crunchier-seeming set of traditional doom and metal. Vocalist Mark Weiner has hit himself in the head on purpose both times I’ve seen the band — here and at Days of the Doomed II — and so I guess he’s just that crazy. He had on a Church of Misery shirt and was happy to show it off along with his formidable pipes, but bassist Ron Holzner has “used to be in Trouble” on his side, and that’s always an attention-getter. The band was pretty crisp, even for lacking their violin, and the assembled heads dug in wholeheartedly as they kicked into a new song, the title of which I didn’t get. Good to know they have new stuff in the works though. I did run out and grab that turkey sandwich, eating half as I sat on the lip of the open trunk of my car — a doomer tailgate party of one — but when I came back, Earthen Grave made me think perhaps I should revisit their self-titled full-length, and covered Pentagram‘s “Relentless,” which is a bit of a coincidence, since that band is about to go on stage in Brooklyn playing that album in its entirety. Go figure.
Devil to Pay
UPDATE 11:12PM: No coincidence that Devil to Pay guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak was representing the Ripple Music logo, as it was recently announced the Indianapolis four-piece had signed to that label for the release of their new album. Janiak said on stage that the record is due out in January — it’ll be their first since 2009′s Heavily Ever After– and they played a few songs from it, including the gloomy highlight “Yes, Master.” Devil to Pay are always pretty humble on stage, but they’re pretty clearly riding a high. They seemed confident and assured in their sound, guitarist Rob Hough breaking out the weekend’s first and only (to date) windmill headbang, and Janiak‘s tenure in the doomier Apostle of Solitude has brought a new dynamic to his vocals, which had a kind of post-Alice in Chains grunge feel. I had been looking forward to the new album already, but it’s good to have some affirmation for the anticipation. The night is starting to wind down, and with Pale Divine and The Skull still to go, things are about to get awfully doomed around here, but Devil to Pay‘s heavy rock was a great balance between the stoner and the doom, and Janiak is beginning to emerge as a genuine frontman presence. Cool to watch.
UPDATE 12:14AM: The funny thing about watching Pale Divine‘s set tonight was that for most of the contingent up front to see the band, they were local, like well-known, like married-to-them local. For me, seeing Pale Divine, who hail from Pennsylvania, is something exotic, something that doesn’t happen every day. It had me thinking about the bands that I feel that way about — Jersey acts like The Atomic Bitchwax or even a Long Island band like Negative Reaction — who I take for granted. My moment’s pondering didn’t last much longer than that, however, because I was astonished to see Fezzy from Admiral Browning was playing bass alongside guitarist/vocalist and band founder Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey, who also played with Beelzefuzz tonight. Fez was a little punchy on the bass, but that dude’s the kind of player that could pretty much fit in anywhere so long as it’s heavy, and it was cool to see him in a more traditionally riffy context, playing off Diener‘s Wino-inspired riffs. A highlight was “Amplified,” the opening track of their first album, Thunder Perfect Mind, and when the whole thing was done, I won the Stoner Hands of Doom raffle! More on that later, as The Skull is about to go on.
UPDATE 1:40AM: You know what the difference is between The Skull and your Trouble cover band? First of all, you don’t have a Trouble cover band, but even if you did, chances are it wouldn’t have Ron Holzner playing bass in it or Eric Wagner singing, and as someone who saw Trouble proper on their tour with Kory Clarke fronting them, I can say first hand that that makes a big fucking difference. Seems frivolous to say “Psalm 9″ and “Bastards Will Pay” were high points — the whole set was a high point. Together with guitarists and a drummer culled from Chicago metallers Sacred Dawn, Wagner and Holzner ran through a set of classics that seemed utterly antithetical to the late hour. They killed, and the people that stuck around ate it up. Nobody even spoke in between songs. Everyone just stood there and waited to see what was coming next? How about “Revelation (Life and Death)?” Well, yeah, okay, right on. I guess the big difference between tonight and when I saw The Skull at Days of the Doomed is I’m not miserable piss drunk tonight, so I’ve got that working for me. When their set was finished, Wagner said he’d keep going if someone bought him a beer, so beer was acquired and they wound up closing with “At the End of My Daze,” which was incredible of course. The bar called a “get the fuck out” last call after they were actually done, so I’m writing this in the car in the parking lot outside, about to drive back to where I’ll crash out and get up tomorrow for the final day of Stoner Hands of Doom. Tonight was unreal.
You know, I kind of struggle with knowing how personal I should get in these posts. I’m glad this week to have gotten back to the point where I fill the full frontpage with new stuff, but fuck me sideways, it wasn’t easy. And man, everyone works hard. I’m not the only one with two jobs. I’m not the only one who works late. It’s a fine line between explaining my situation and whining, I think. I don’t get to post as much as I want to, but you know, even when I didn’t have a job and I did five or six posts a day, I didn’t post as much as I wanted to.
So what’s new?
I picked Trouble tonight because it seemed like the only fitting end to this week. It was a pretty Trouble-y week, what with those Days of the Doomed reviews and all that craziness. I figured no better way to go. Sorry if you don’t like Trouble. Sorry if you don’t like The Obelisk. Sorry I drank all the wine.
Except that last one I’m not sorry about.
I’m gonna wait until The Patient Mrs. falls asleep, then I’m gonna go out in the field across the street and make black metal poses at the moon. And I’ll pretend like someone’s taking pictures of me except no one will be and I’ll pretend everything is high contrast black and white and I’m in Norway and I’m in Darkthrone and whatever. Frydee Darkthrone:
New podcast this weekend. Next week, reviews of Danny G., The Company Corvette, maybe Sons of Otis, so on. So help me gawd, I’ll have my interview with Justin Maranga of Ancestors posted, and it’s a good one. And I’ll work late, and I’ll bitch about that, and if I have time, I’ll write some about that Argus record I bought last weekend, and that’ll be fun too. Like, woo-hoo, man.
See you back here tomorrow or Sunday for that new podcast, on the forum in the meantime, and at your favorite jaded-rock-dude support group. SIJA: Self-Indulgent Jerks Anonymous.
Back in the first week of January, I put up a Buried Treasure post about Blue Explosion: A Tribute to Blue Cheer and said that the reason I bought it was because I had a comp jones and Bastards Will Pay: A Tribute to Trouble seemed eternally elusive. In a comment to that very post, a hero named Dave emerged to tell me there was a copy up on eBay UK right then.
I immediately clicked the link and found that, indeed, someone was selling the 1999 Freedoom Records tribute to Chicago doomers Trouble; a CD I first encountered a few years back in an epic and drunken excursion to Lansing, Michigan, at the home of Midwestern heavy rock luminary Postman Dan. All of a sudden, there was Church of Misery covering “Come Touch the Sky,” Orange Goblin doing “Black Shapes of Doom.” Life was good.
In light of vocalist Kory Clarke‘s somewhat prickish exit from Trouble yesterday and the announcement that he’d be replaced by Kyle Thomas — who’d filled in when Eric Wagner left previously — I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look at Bastards Will Pay and see if there might be any vocalist candidates among the 13 bands involved. Sure, most of them would have to be imported from Sweden to to it, but I know if Bruce Franklin called, I’d seriously consider relocation as an option for the immediate future. Would get me off my ass, in other words.
There are some killer singers here. It was 1999, so Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand was still fronting Spiritual Beggars for their organ-heavy cover of “Mr. White,” and Eric Wagner himself takes the helm with This Tortured Soul for opener “The Tempter.” He’s left Trouble and come back before, so it could happen again — although that Blackfinger record should probably materialize first. Uwe Groebel, then of Naevus and currently of Voodooshock, makes “R.I.P.” a highlight, and The Quill‘s “A Sinner’s Fame” rests largely on the shoulders of singer Magnus Ekwall, so he’d be in the running too. If you’re feeling fancy, you might ask Joakim Nilsson — then of Norrsken, who close with an excellent take on “Psalm 9″ — but he’d probably be too busy these days with Graveyard to actually do it.
Of those and the rest, Groebel might be the best match to Wagner‘s original vocals in terms of style and what he brings to the track, but neither Orange Goblin, nor Church of Misery, nor Rise and Shine‘s Sunlight Studio-tastic version of “‘Scuse Me” is lacking for personality, and if Trouble brought in Kory Clarke in the first place, sticking to the Wagner (recent interview here) blueprint clearly isn’t high on their list of priorities. Thomas killed it on Alabama Thunderpussy‘s fully-metalized Open Fire swansong, so it should be interesting to see what he does on the album if, in fact, things go that way.
And in the meantime, Bastards Will Pay: A Tribute to Trouble was well worth the anticipation I felt for it and whatever it was I finally shelled out when that eBay auction was done. It’s another on a long list of comps that only appeals to me years after the fact, but despite some pretty wide production gaps and volume changes, a cool look at Trouble‘s still-enduring legacy. Thanks again to Dave, wherever he might be.
…I was going to call it the “Gleaming the Tubes” Edition, but figured no one would get the reference and it would sound more like I was the hippest plumber ever than just buying albums online. Don’t want to overdo it, you know.
I recently got a check for $90 for a column I write in New Jersey‘s longest-running alt weekly, The Aquarian. I get one every month for roughly the same amount, and true to form, I lost this one almost immediately. I’ve begged for a direct deposit and been roundly (and squarely) rejected. This — namely the fact that I didn’t actually have the money anymore — wasn’t going to stop me from spending it. I hit up Amazon and here’s a quick rundown of the subsequent wish list haul, the last of which just arrived in the mail today:
The Obsessed, The Church Within: I have no excuse for not already owning this album and I feel no small amount of shame for having only purchased it now. It was an oversight on my part and it’s been corrected. I’d prefer to just move on.
Church of Misery, The Second Coming: This one I have an excuse for not already owning. Two actually. First, it’s hard as fuck to find. Second, when you do find it, it’s similarly (and apparently copulatingly) expensive. Worth every penny for the frenetic, blasted-out doom that ensues though.
Dutch Oven, Electric Last Minute: I’m not even sure why I originally wanted this, but it was on my wish list for years and at this point it was a battle of will to see how long I could wait out buying it. It’s meh, but I know a long time ago when I put it on the list I must have wanted it very badly, so future me (which is now me) was basically just trusting past me’s instincts on this one. Turns out that guy’s kind of a jerk.
Trouble, Run to the Light: It’s the 1994 reissue of the 1987 album, but it’s also the last Trouble full-length I didn’t own, and I’m pretty sure I get a cookie for completing the catalog, so if you weigh it in terms of cookie/dollar value, Run to the Light just paid for itself. Suck a fat one, economy!
Pappo’s Blues, Volume 1: Early ’70s Argentinian psychedelic bluesy biker rock? Are you fucking kidding me? More please.
Color Humano, Color Humano: More Argentinian ’70s goodness. My only complaint with this is that it came in a sleeve, which is bullshit. I guess “limited edition import” means, “I’m a dick and I’m going to mail you my promo of this Sony reissue ha ha ha fuck you fuck you.” Always something lost in translation.
Beaver, Lodge: Because apparently every single time I order CDs from anywhere, ever, it has to include at least one item released on Man’s Ruin. This is cool though because it’s the promo, and because it’s not in a sleeve, I’m okay with that.
Snail, Snail: I know they just reissued it and it’s available for download through the band’s website, but I wanted the original deal and it was like four bucks, so I grabbed it and I’m not looking back. If you’ve never heard it and you’re not a complete asshole like me, buy it from the band and give them some small measure of support, since they’re good people.
Posted in Reviews on May 21st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’re going to kiss a record’s ass, a good reason to do so is the dude who made it was in Chicago doom legends Trouble, but much as I’ve tried, and tried, and tried to unconditionally accept Again,the self-released full-length debut from Jeff “Oly” Olson’s Retro Grave project, I just can’t do it. The album was originally download-only, and came out early in 2009, but was tweaked for physical issue and given its hard copy release in February. More or less since then (it might have been March), when I got the record, I’ve been avoiding reviewing it.
It’s not that Again is bad, but it is very disjointed. I get that Retro Grave is supposed to be an experimental project, but Olson as the chief songwriter, is still using the basic elements of heavy music that launched Trouble in the early ‘80s. It just feels like he has put them in the wrong order. The riff that drives “So So Souls,” for example, is killer, has that full-on swagger that made Trouble a metallic household name, but the surrounding elements aren’t cohesive, and after five minutes, when the track drops to organ, I can’t help but feel let down in a, “Hey, bring that back!” kind of way. Olson, who went to Berklee and clearly knows his shit, can only be doing it on purpose, and I don’t doubt that writing a song like “Monstah” (as opposed to “monster”) is a lot of fun, but that isn’t necessarily going to translate into the listening experience.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
I guess after you spend so long fronting one of America‘s greatest doom acts — namely Trouble — you get a certain amount of what our former president called “political capital,” to cash as you will. For Eric Wagner, that cashing comes in the form of his new band, Blackfinger, signing to Dark Star Records. Yeah, I know it ain’t exactly Universal Music, but we’re a long way removed from “Black Shapes of Doom,” and he’s apparently looking for something low key anyway, so I suppose you take what you can get.
Blabbermouth had the story, and it went like this:
Blackfinger, the new project featuring ex-Trouble vocalist Eric Wagner, has inked a deal with Dark Star Records. The band’s self-titled full-length debut is scheduled for release in the fall. A number of US and international appearances will follow.
Blackfinger is: Eric Wagner – Vocals Doug Hakes – Guitar Rico Bianchi – Guitar Ben Smith – Bass Larry Piatz – Drums
Eric Wagner left Trouble in April 2008, citing his disdain for the touring life as the main reason for his departure.
Unless that Blue Cheer disc shows up in the mail tomorrow, I just received the final album I will have purchased this decade. It was Trouble, by Trouble. I bought it off Amazon used, but as close to mint as anything I’ve seen, spent $30 of an Xmas gift card and $18 of my hard-earned on top of that to get it. Worth every penny, virtual and otherwise.
The 1990 release is widely regarded as the apex of Trouble‘s career, and with tracks like “Psychotic Reaction,” “At the End of My Daze” and “Black Shapes of Doom,” it’s hard to argue. The classic lineup of vocalist Eric Wagner, guitarist Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Barry Stern (RIP) captured a defining moment in doom which even 20 years later many bands still emulate without the same kind of effect on the listener.
Whatever they’ve done since — the lineup changes, naming their yet-to-be-released new album The Dark Riff, etc. — there’s no denying the presence of Trouble, and two decades on, the power of these tracks still speaks for itself. It is an acquisition most welcome, and a fitting end to 10 years of rampant expenditure without regard for credit rating, checking account balance or common sense.
Speaking of, anyone got a lead on a CD copy of the Saint Vitus live record on Hellhound? There’s a couple extra tracks they left off the Southern Lord reissue I’d like to get my hands on.
Posted in Reviews on August 25th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
Even since before the release/non-release of Trouble?s would-have-been comeback album, Simple Mind Condition (it?s a non-release if you?re in the US, thanks to Escapi Music biting the proverbial big one), there?s been no small amount of teasing for the release of their unplugged EP. For a while there, it grew into one of those, ?Yeah, that?ll be out one of these days? phantom albums, until the legendary Chicago outfit finally made it available in limited numbers on their website, late 2007. The first 100 pre-sold were signed by the band.
Now seeing wider issue via Germany?s SAOL imprint, Unplugged boasts four bonus demos with the original six tracks, making it a full-length compilation-type release. Two of the original six songs are ?new,? and two of the bonus tracks were previously available on the Demos and Rarities Pt. 2 (1984-1994) collection, so there are four presumably yet-unheard cuts, two of which were on the prior Unplugged, four alternate versions and the two other bonuses, ?Waiting for the Sun? (not the Doors tune) and the Yardbirds cover, ?Heartful of Soul.?